Gilman School
Punctuation Rules

 Use a comma (,) in a compound sentence between independent clauses joined by a coordinate conjunction such as and, but, for, or, nor, so, or yet. Use a semicolon (;) when joining main clauses without using a coordinate conjunction. (see conjunctive adverbs

Examples:

I went to the door (,) but no one was there. 
Her first idea was good (;) nevertheless, her second was better.
I loved reading the book (;) even so, the movie was not as good as I had hoped it would be.
He does not like vegetables (;) consequently, he will not eat spinach.

NOTE: Do not use a comma to set off compound predicates joined by coordinate conjunctions unless the sentence contains a series of three predicates or more. 

Examples:
The hitter lined the ball into centerfield and sprinted to first base.
The pitcher came to a set (,) looked the runner back to first (,) and threw to the plate.

  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 
  Use commas after introductory (a) clauses, (b) phrases, or (c) words that come before the main clause.
 
Examples:
When I get hungry for Mexican food (,) I head for Taco Bell!
Because her Powerbook was broken (,) she needed to rely upon the computers in the school lab.
 
Use commas to set off an adverb clause that precedes its main clause. Adverb clauses are begun by subordinate conjunctions such as after, although, as, because, if, since, when, and while.
Example: 
While I was eating (,) the cat scratched at the door. 
 
NOTE: Do not use a comma when the adverb clause comes after the main clause: 
Example:
 
The cat scratched the door while I was eating.
 
Use commas to set off introductory phrases such as participial phrases or infinitive phrases, or a succession of prepositional phrases. (For a discussion of gerund phrases go here.)
 
Examples:
Participial Phrase:
          Having finished the test (,) she left the room.
Infinitive Phrase: 
          To get a seat (,) you had better come early.
Succession of Prepositional Phrases: 
          After the test but before lunch (,) I went jogging.

Here are some common words that introduce sentences: yes, however, well, no, why, consequently, nevertheless, and moreover.
 
  Example: 
Well (,) perhaps he meant no harm. 
 

  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 
  Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off participial phrases and adjective clauses that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one comma to indicate the beginning of the clause and another at the end to indicate the end of the clause. (Adjective clauses are introduced by relative pronouns.) 

Essential: (no comma)
A student who cheats on a test is only hurting himself.
The cheerleader wearing the big hat is attracting a lot of attention.
Non- Essential: (A pair of commas)
Apples (,) which are my favorite fruit (,) are usually harvested in the fall.
Mr. Benson (,) grinning from ear to ear (,) announced that the test would be the very next day.
Clues:
  • Can you leave out the clause or phrase and still have the sentence make sense?

  • Does the non-essential clause or phrase interrupt the flow of words in the original sentence?

  • Can you leave out the clause or phrase and still have the sentence make sense?

  • Can you move the non-essential element around in the sentence?

  • Does the clause begin with that?

That clauses which follow a noun are almost always essential.
That
clauses which follow a verb expressing mental action are always essential. No comma is needed in these cases.

Examples:
That
after nouns:
The book that I borrowed from you is excellent.
Apples that are green are called Granny Smith apples.

That
clauses which follow a verb expressing mental action:
She believes that she will be able to get the job.
He dreams that he can fly.
I contend that it was wrong to mislead her.
They wish that warm weather would finally arrive.

  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 
Use commas to set off (a) appositive phrases, (b) short parenthetical expressions or?(c) vocatives that interrupt the sentence.

   a) Appositives:
  Examples:
John (,) the tallest member of the family (,) was a good athlete. Herb's painting (,) a huge, colorful mural (,) was the most striking.
Squaw Valley (,) the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics (,) is a ski resort in California.

NOTE: Don't use a comma for appositives like 'my son John', 'William the Conqueror', or 'the steamship Titanic'. 

   b) Parenthetical ExpressionsSet off short parenthetical expressions such as however, well, no, why, consequently, nevertheless, and moreover which interrupt the flow of your sentence.
  Examples: 
I am tired(;) however (,) I plan to finish the paper. The dog is very happy (;) moreover (,) he loves to chase Frisbees.

   c) Vocatives: Use commas to set off a vocative (nominative of direct address).
  Examples:
It is up to you (,) Jane (,) to finish.
Please (,) John (,) come home.

  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

General series and colon.


a) Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series.
b) Use a colon (:) after an independent clause to introduce a list, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation. (Strunk and White 7)

Examples:
She could not choose between pizza with anchovies (,) mushrooms (,) or sausage.

The candidate made many promises (:) to lower taxes (,) solve the energy shortage (,) and end unemployment.

"Even so, there was a directness and dispatch about animal burial (:) there was no stop over in the undertaker's foul parlor, no wreath, no spray." (Strunk and White 8)

The squalor of the streets reminded him of a line from Oscar Wilde (:)  "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." (Strunk and White 8)
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. 

Clues: 
Can the adjectives be written in reverse order? 
     (If your answer is yes, add a comma.)
Can you add an 'and' between the adjectives? 
     (If your answer is yes, add a comma.) 

Examples: 
    
... a greedy, stubborn child... 
     ... a white frame house... 
     ... a purple wool shawl... 
     ... an easy, happy smile... 
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Use a comma to set off direct discourse in a sentence, but not indirect discourse. 

Examples:
He said (,) ?I cannot see you.? (direct discourse)
He said he could not see me. (indirect discourse) 
 
  

 

When an expression like he said interrupts direct discourse, it should be preceded by a comma and followed by whatever punctuation mark would have been needed if the he said were removed. 

Example: 

"John is a good boy," I said (;) "therefore, he has many privileges."
 
  

 

However, if he said is preceded by a question or exclamation, it should be preceded by a question mark or exclamation mark and followed by a period. 

Examples:
"Are you going to the races?" she asked.
"How you have grown!" he exclaimed.

  

 

 

In a conversation, use a new paragraph to denote a change in speaker.

Example:
"I am ready for action, sir!" cried out the young tackle to his coach as the trainer worked on his teammate's injured knee.
"All right, kid, go get them!" replied the coach. The boy nodded, pulled on his helmet, and ran out onto the rain-soaked field.

  

 

Unemphatic exclamations, like yes, no, oh, or well, occur frequently in direct discourse; they should be set off by commas.

Examples:
"Well, gentlemen, why don't we get to work?" said Mr. Wigglesworth with a placid expression.
"Oh, please, anything but that!" cried out the class.

Quotation Marks  (Darling et al) 
Quotation Marks Exercise 1 (Purdue OWL)

Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Use a comma to keep apart words that would injure the sense if taken together. 

Example: 
Upon his entering (,) the room became quiet. 
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the months and day), addresses (except the street name and number), and titles in names. 

Examples: 
Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham, England.
July 22, 1959, was a momentous day in his life. 
Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.? 
Donald B. Lake, MD., will be the principal speaker. 
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Capitalize the first word in a title and all other words except articles, prepositions and conjunctions. 

Example: 
James Joyce wrote the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Capitalize proper nouns and proper adjectives. 

Examples: 
Examples: England, English, France, French, Jew, Jewish, Bible, Biblical, Indian, Latin
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Capitalize a common noun like river, street, or hotel only when it forms a part of a proper noun. 

Examples: 
Gilman School, Biltmore Hotel, Potomac River, Elm Street
 
  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

  Italicize (in handwriting, underscore):

(a) words under discussion Example: (Black is an adjective, modifying cat.)

(b) letters of the alphabet spoken of as letters Example: (There is only one t in commit.)

(c) foreign words or phrases Example: (He has savoir faire.)

(d) names of newspapers, magazines, literary compositions, musical compositions, pictures, movies, plays, and ships. Example: (Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream.)

Caution: 
Use words to represent numbers when no more than two words are required.
 
Examples: 
forty-four, five hundred

Use figures for numerals when more than two words are required.

Examples: 221, $8.27

 Use figures in dates and street numbers. 

Examples:
Go to 1164 Thirty-Fifth Street on September 22, 1999. 

  Jump to Rule:
1    2    3    4    5
6    7    8    9    10
11  12  13

 

Works Cited 

 

Purdue On-line Writing Center for the organization and phrasing of punctuation rules one through four. ??

The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White, (1979) MacMillan (NY,NY)

Warriner's English Grammar and Composition, Complete Course, John E. Warriner and Francis Griffith (1977) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (NY,NY)
   

 

 
   
Copyright 2001 Writewell, Inc. 
All rights reserved.